Ara hyacinthinus Spix, 1824 (preoccupied)
Cyanopsittacus spixi Salvadori, 1891
Sittace spixii Wagler, 1832
Cyanopsitta spixi Helmayr, 1906
Ara spixi Peters, 1937
Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), also known as the little blue
macaw, is a macaw native to Brazil. It is a member of Tribe Arini in
Arinae (Neotropical parrots), part of the family
Psittacidae (the true parrots). It was first described by German
naturalist Georg Marcgrave, when he was working in the State of
Pernambuco, Brazil, in 1638 and it is named for German naturalist
Johann Baptist von Spix, who collected a specimen in 1819 on the bank
Rio São Francisco
Rio São Francisco in northeast
Bahia in Brazil.
The bird is a medium-size parrot weighing about 300 grams
(0.66 lb), smaller than most of the large macaws. Its plumage is
various shades of blue, with a grey-blue head, light blue underparts,
and vivid blue upperparts. Males and females are almost identical in
appearance, however the females are slightly smaller on average.
The species inhabited riparian Caraibeira (Tabebuia aurea) woodland
galleries in the drainage basin of the
Rio São Francisco
Rio São Francisco within the
Caatinga dry forest climate of interior northeastern Brazil. It had a
very restricted natural habitat due to its dependence on the tree for
nesting, feeding and roosting. It fed primarily on seeds and nuts of
Caraiba and various
Euphorbiaceae (spurge) shrubs, the dominant
vegetation of the Caatinga. Due to deforestation in its limited range
and specialized habitat, the bird has been rare in the wild throughout
the twentieth century. It has always been very rare in captivity,
partly due to the remoteness of its natural range.
IUCN regard the
Spix's macaw as critically endangered and possibly
extinct in the wild. Its last known stronghold in the wild was in
northeastern Bahia, Brazil, and sightings are very rare. After a 2000
sighting of a male bird, the next sighting was in 2016. The species
is now maintained through a captive breeding program at several
conservation organizations under the aegis of the Brazilian
government. It is listed on
CITES Appendix I, which makes trade
illegal except for legitimate conservation, scientific or educational
The Brazilian government department of natural resources (ICMBio) is
conducting a project Ararinha-Azul with an associated plan to restore
the species to the wild as soon as sufficient breeding birds and
restored habitat are available.
4 Distribution and habitat
5.1 Decline and possible extinction in the wild
6.1 Captive population
6.2 Health and reproduction
6.3 Artificial insemination
8 Popular culture
9 Possible rediscovery
12 Cited texts
13 Further reading
14 External links
Phylogeny and relationships of macaws and allies (bullet items =
recognized macaw genera; thick line=multiple clade levels compressed
for brevity – for full cladogram see Arini)
Spix's macaw is the only known species of the genus Cyanopsitta. The
genus name is derived from the
Ancient Greek kuanos meaning "blue" and
psittakos meaning "parrot". The species name spixii is a Latinized
form of the surname "von Spix", hence Cyanopsitta spixii means "blue
parrot of Spix". The genus Cyanopsitta is one of six genera of
Central and South American macaws in the tribe Arini, which also
includes all the other long-tailed New World parrots. Tribe Arini
together with the short-tailed Amazon and allied parrots and a few
miscellaneous genera make up subfamily
Arinae of Neotropical parrots
Psittacidae of true parrots.
Georg Marcgrave was the first European naturalist to observe
and describe the species; however, it is named for Johann Baptist von
Spix, who collected the type specimen in April 1819 in Brazil, but
gave it the misnomer Arara hyacinthinus not realizing till later that
the name collided with Psittacus hyacinthinus, the name assigned to
the hyacinth macaw described by John Lathan in 1790. Spix's mistake
was noticed in 1832 by German Professor of Zoology Johann Wagler, who
realized that the 1819 specimen was smaller and a different color than
the hyacinth macaw and he designated the new species as "Sittace
spixii". It wasn't until 1854 that naturalist Prince Charles Bonaparte
properly placed it in its own genus, designating the bird Cyanopsitta
spixi [sic], based on important morphological differences between
it and the other blue macaws. It was listed as Cyanopsittacus
spixi [sic] by Italian zoologist
Tommaso Salvadori in his 1891 Catalog
of the Birds in the British Museum.
Naturalists have noted the Spix's similarity to other smaller members
of tribe Arini based on general morphology as long ago as Rev. F.G.
Dutton, president of the Avicultural Society U.K. in 1900: "it's more
like a conure" ('conure' is not a defined taxon – in Dutton's time,
it referred to the archaic genus Conurus; today those would be among
the smaller non-macaw parakeets in Arini). Brazilian ornithologist
Helmut Sick stated in 1981: "Cyanopsitta spixii...is not a real
macaw"[Notes 1]. (Sick's remark was in the context of an article on
Lear's macaw, a larger blue macaw. He recognized, as Spix had not 150
years before, that C. spixii is notably different from the larger
The morphology-based taxonomy of C. spixii, intermediate between the
macaws and the smaller Arini, has been confirmed by recent molecular
phylogenetic studies. In a 2008 molecular phylogenetic study of 69
parrot genera, the clade diagrams indicate that C. spixii split
from the ancestral parakeets before the differentiation of the modern
macaws. However, not all of the macaw genera were represented in the
study. The study also states that diversification of the Neotropical
parrot lineages occurred starting 33 mya, a period roughly coinciding
with the separation of South America from West Antarctica. The author
notes that the study challenges the classification of British
ornithologist Nigel Collar in the encyclopedic Handbook of the Birds
of the World, volume 4 (1997). A 2011 study by the same authors
which includes key genera of macaws further elucidates the macaw
taxonomy: the clade diagram of that study places C. spixii in a clade
including the macaw genera which is sister to a clade containing the
Aratingas and other smaller parakeets. Within the macaw clade, C.
spixii was the first taxon to diverge from the ancestral macaws; its
nearest relatives are the red-bellied macaw (
and the blue-headed macaw (
Adult in Vogelpark Walsrode, Germany in 1980 (approx)
Spix's macaw is easy to identify being the only small blue macaw and
also by the bare grey facial skin of its lores and eyerings. It is
about 56 cm (22 in) long including tail length of
26–38 cm (10–15 in). It has a wing length of
24.7–30.0 cm (9.7–11.8 in). The external appearance
of adult male and female are identical; however, the average
weight of captive males is about 318 g (11.2 oz) and captive
females average about 288 g (10.2 oz). Its plumage is
grey-blue on the head, pale blue on the underparts, and vivid blue on
the upperparts, wings and tail. The legs and feet are
brownish-black. In adults the bare facial skin is grey, the beak is
entirely dark grey, and the irises are yellow. Juveniles are
similar to adults, but the bare facial skin is pale grey, the irises
are brown, and they have a white stripe along the center of the top of
the beak (along the culmen).
In the wild, the most common seeds and nuts consumed by Spix's were
from Pinhão (Jatropha pohliana var. mollissima) and Favela
(Cnidoscolus phyllacanthus). However these trees are colonizers, not
native to the bird's habitat, so they could not have been historical
staples of the diet.
Its diet also included seeds and nuts from Joazeiro (Ziziphus
Joazeiro), Baraúna (Schinopsis brasiliensis), Imburana (Commiphora
leptophloeos or Bursera leptophloeos), Facheiro (Pilosocereus
Phoradendron species, Caraibeira (Tabebuia caraiba),
Angico (Anadenanthera macrocarpa), Umbu (Spondias tuberosa) and
Unha-de-gato (Acacia paniculata). Reports from previous Spix's macaw
researchers seem to add another two plants to the list: Maytenus
rigida and Geoffroea spinosa.
Combretum leprosum may also be a
A juvenile in captivity. Note white stripe along top of beak and
pale-grey bare facial skin
Captive bred Spix's macaws reach sexual maturity at seven years of
age. A paired female born at the
Loro Parque Fundación laid eggs at
the age of five years, but these were infertile. It is suspected
that late maturity in captivity may be due to inbreeding or other
artificial environmental factors, as other parrots of similar size
reach sexual maturity in two to four years. In the wild, mating
involves elaborate courtship rituals, like feeding each other and
flying together. This process is known to possibly take several
seasons in other large parrots, and it may also be the case for the
Spix's. They make their nests in the hollows of large mature
Caraibeira trees, and reuse the nest year after year. The breeding
season is November to March, with most eggs hatching in January to
coincide with the start of the
Caatinga January to April rainy season.
In the wild, Spix's were believed to lay three eggs per clutch; in
captivity, the average number is four eggs, and can range from one to
seven. Incubation period is 25–28 days and only the female
performs incubation duties. The chicks fledge in 70 days and are
independent in 100–130 days.
The mating call of
Spix's macaw can be described as the sound
"whichaka". The sound is made by creating a low rumble in the abdomen
bringing the sound up to a high pitch. Its voice is a repeated
short grating. It also makes squawking noises.
Its lifespan in the wild is unknown; the only documented bird (the
last wild male), was older than 20 years. The eldest bird in captivity
died at age 34 years.
Distribution and habitat
An 1878 painting of an adult by Joseph Smit
Various accounts relate that the birds were more common in Pernambuco
Bahia through the 1960s but not later.
Spix's macaw was
most recently (1974–1987) known in the Río São Francisco valley,
in northeastern Brazil, principally in the basins on the south side of
the river in the State of Bahia. In 1974, ornithologist Helmut Sick,
based on information from traders and trappers, extended the possible
range of the
Spix's macaw to embrace the northeastern part of the
Goias and the southern part of the state of Maranhao.
Other ornithologists reporting the bird in various parts of the state
Piaui further extended the range to a vast area of the dry interior
of northeast Brazil.
Study of the lone bird discovered at Melância creek in 1990 revealed
substantive information about its habitat. It had been previously
assumed that the
Spix's macaw had a vast range in the interior of
Brazil embracing several different habitat types, including buriti
palm swamps, cerrado, and dry Caatinga. But the evidence collected in
Melância Creek indicated that the
Spix's macaw was a specially
adapted inhabitant of the disappearing woodland galleries.
Tony Silva mentions that "where Caraibeiras have been
felled, as in the
Pernambuco side of the São Francisco River, the
species has disappeared".
Much remains uncertain about the extent of the bird's original range,
because most of its woodland habitat was cleared before naturalists
observed either the birds or the Caraiba nesting sites. The historical
range is now believed to have encompassed portions of the states of
Pernambuco in a 50 km (31 mi) wide corridor along
a 150–200 kilometres (93–124 mi) stretch of the Rio São
Juazeiro (or possibly Remanso) and Abaré.
Previous observations of the birds from further west are very
difficult to explain but conceivably stem from either escaped captive
birds or more likely the misidentification of another species such as
red-bellied macaw (
Caatinga vegetation of northeastern
Bahia (which hosts the Spix
habitat) is stunted trees, thorny shrubs and cacti, dominated by
plants of the family Euphorbiaceae. This macaw lived in the hottest
and driest part of the "Caatinga" within Caraiba, or Caribbean trumpet
tree (Tabebuia caraiba) woodland galleries. The Caraibeira constitutes
a microclimate within the Caatinga. The existing galleries are fringes
of unique woodland extending a maximum of 18 metres (59 ft) to
either side along a series of seasonal waterways at least 8 m wide in
Rio São Francisco
Rio São Francisco drainage basin. All T. caraiba woodland was
recorded in the middle and lower levels of the creek system where fine
alluvial deposits were present. The character of the galleries is tall
(8m) evenly spaced Caraibeira trees, ten per hundred meters,
interspersed with low scrub and desert cacti. Large mature trees of
this species (and apparently no other) provided the nesting hollows of
Spix's macaws, as well as shelter and their seedpods, food for the
Notable among the seasonal waterways are Riacho Melância watershed
30 km south of Curaçá, where the last known wild Spix's macaw
nest was located, adjacent Riacho Barra Grande, and Riacho da Vargem
~100 km to the north near
Abaré all in the State of
of Rio São Francisco. In 1990, these were all that remained of what
was once believed to be a vast filigree of creekside Caraibeira
woodland extending 50 km into the
Caatinga on either side of the
Rio São Francisco
Rio São Francisco along a significant stretch of its middle
reaches. There is also one confirmed site, since cleared, along
Brígida Creek on the north shore of
Rio São Francisco
Rio São Francisco in
Plate from Spix's 1824 description. It has the bill of a juvenile
The species appears to have been seen and described – "MARACANA
Brasiliensibus, avis Psittaco planè similis (cuius & species) sed
maior, plumae totius ex gryseo subcoerulescunt, clamat ut Psittacus.
Fructus amat, Murucuia imprimis. ("Brazilian parrot, bird very similar
African grey parrot
African grey parrot ] but larger, the entire plumage is
ashy-bluish, calls like a parrot. Fruit it loves, especially
Passionfruit.") – by the German naturalist
Georg Marcgrave when he
Pernambuco in 1638.
Spix's macaw is named for German naturalist Johann Baptist von Spix,
who collected the first specimen in April 1819 near the São Francisco
River in the vicinity of Juazeiro [Notes 2] Recent authorities
cite the type locality as Curaca, but others say the
locality can't be known with certainty.[Notes 3]. Spix wrote:
"habitat gregarius, rarissimus licet, propre Joazeiro in campis
riparüs fluminis St. Francisci, voce tenui insignis" ("it lives in
flocks, although very rare, near Joazeiro in the region bordering the
rio São Francisco, [and is] notable for its thin voice").
The next reported sighting of the bird wasn't for 84 years, in 1903 by
Othmar Reiser of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, 400 kilometres
(250 mi) west of
Juazeiro at Lagoa de
Parnaguá (lake at
Parnagua) in the State of Piaui. (What we now know about its habitat
and probable range casts doubt on this observation) Reiser had
also seen one in captivity at a railway station in Remanso. These
observations resulted in an early supposition of a vast potential
range for the species in the dry interior of the northeast.
With the passage of the Brazil Wildlife Protection Act in 1967, Brazil
forbade the export of its wildlife, and in 1975 became a party to the
CITES treaty. These actions barely affected the illicit bird trade,
but Spix owners were forced underground (consequently complicating the
later effort to initiate a captive recovery program).
The bird had not been studied in the wild until the 1970s. In 1974,
Helmut Sick observed groups of three and four
of the birds near Formosa do Rio Preta in northwest
Bahia flying over
buriti Palms (Mauritia flexuosa). As recently as 1980, Robert
Ridgely (ornithologist) stated that "there is no available evidence
indicating a recent decline in numbers." Beginning around 1980, at the
very height of the illegal bird trade, traders and trappers removed
dozens of Spix's from the wild, and by the early 80s, it was generally
believed to be extinct in the wild. Naturalist Dr. Paul Roth
conducted field surveys of the bird in the Curacá region from 1985 to
1988. Roth found only 5 birds in 1985, three in 1986, and only two
after May 1987.
Two of the birds were captured for trade in 1987. A single male,
paired with a female blue-winged macaw, was discovered at the site in
1990. A female
Spix's macaw released from captivity at the site in
1995 was killed by collision with a power line after seven weeks. The
last wild male disappeared from the site in October 2000; his
disappearance was thought to have marked the extinction of this
species in the wild. However, wild Spix's macaws may have been
sighted in 2016. While the
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List views its status as
Critically Endangered and possibly extinct in the wild,
ornithologist Nigel Collar of Birdlife International, the authority
IUCN Redlist of birds now calls this bird extinct in the
Decline and possible extinction in the wild
The bird was already rare by the time of Spix's discovery of it in
1819 following 100 years of intensive burning, logging and grazing of
the caatinga. Centuries of deforestation, human encroachment and
agricultural development along the Rio Sao Francisco corridor
following European colonization of eastern Brazil preceded its
precipitous decline in the latter part of the 20th century.
Naturalists surveying its known remaining native habitat in the
Curaçá region have estimated that it could have supported no more
than about 60 birds at any time in the last 100 years.
Contributing factors were the anthropic introduction of invasive and
predatory species of black rats, feral cats, mongooses and marmoset
monkeys which prey on the eggs and young, and goats, sheep and
cattle which destroy the regenerative growth of the woodland trees,
particularly the Caraibeira seedlings.
Other recent evidence has shown that anthropic changes that occurred
on the northern shore of the São Francisco River, such as a broad
scale conversion into agricultural lands and flooding following the
Sobradinho Dam starting in 1974, have changed the
flora structure and displaced the
Spix's macaw away from that portion
of its original range.
The decline of the species in the 1970s and early 80s is attributed to
hunting and trapping of the birds, unsustainable harvesting of the
Caraíba trees for firewood, the construction of the Sobradinho Dam
Juazeiro starting in 1974 that submerged the basin woodlands
under an artificial lake, and the northward migration of the
Africanized bee, which competes for nesting sites.
Caraiba grows very slowly; most of the trees are 200–300 years old,
and there has not been any regenerative growth for the last 50 years.
In addition, 45% of the
Caatinga dry forest in which the woodland
galleries are embedded has been cleared for farms, ranches and
plantations. Climate change resulting in desertification of
significant parts of the
Caatinga has permanently reduced the
potential reclaimable habitat.
Turnaround video of a specimen at Naturalis Biodiversity Center
In the middle 1980's, by the time fieldwork to locate and understand
the habitat of the Spix was completed, it was apparent that the Spix
must be nearing extinction in the wild. Conservationists realized
that a captive breeding program would be necessary to preserve the
species. At a meeting in 1987 of conservationist groups including IUCN
Loro Parque (one of the original Spix holders) in Tenerife, Canary
Islands (Spain), only 17 captive Spix macaws could be located.
Without the attendance of most of the captive Spix holders or
involvement of the Brazilian government, little was accomplished.
In 1990, the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos
Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA, Brazilian Institute of Environment and
Renewable Natural Resources) established the Permanent Committee for
the Recovery of Spix's Macaw, called CPRAA, and its Ararinha Azul
project (Little Blue
Macaw project) in order to conserve the
species. At that time, the known captive population of Spix's
stood at 15, and one in the wild. Early 1990 was the low point for
conservation of the Spix. The Permanent Committee was dissolved in
2002 due to irreconcilable differences between the parties involved.
In 2004 a committee was re-formed and re-structured under the title of
"The Working Group for the Recovery of the Spix's Macaw".
In the decade from 1990, the
Loro Parque Foundation financed the field
program to protect and study the last wild male, to protect and
restore key habitat, and other important actions. In 1997, the
Loro Parque Foundation returned the ownership to the Government of
Brazil of all the Spix's macaws held in its facilities.
Between 2000 and 2003, most of two large collections of Spix at Birds
International in the Philippines and the aviaries of Swiss
aviculturist Dr. Hammerli were purchased by
Sheikh Saud bin Muhammed
bin Ali Al-Thani of Qatar and became Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation.
Sheikh were instituted exemplary standards of animal
keeping, veterinary care, animal husbandry and stud book records for
the conservation of the Spix's.
In 2007 and 2008, two farms totalling 2,780 hectares (6,900 acres) in
Curaçá, State of Bahia, Brazil were purchased by the Lymington
Foundation (with contributions from ACTP and Parrots International)
and Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation. These compose a small but
important part of the natural habitat of the Spix, in the vicinity
where the last known wild Spix nest existed. Efforts to clear the
habitat of introduced predators and restore the natural Caraibeira
seedlings and important creek systems are ongoing on the land.
In May 2012, Brazil's ICMBio formulated and published a 5-year
National Action Plan (PAN) for conservation and reestablishment of the
species in the wild. Highlights of the plan are to increase the
captive population to 150 specimens (expected by 2020), build a
breeding facility in Brazil within the Spix's native habitat, acquire
and restore additional portions of its range, and prepare for its
release into the wild between 2017 and 2021. Pursuant to the plan,
in 2012, the Brazilian government established NEST, a private aviary
near Avaré, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil as a breeding and staging
center for eventual release of the Spix into the wild. Birds formerly
housed at the Sao Paulo Zoo as well as
Loro Parque Foundation and
other conservation organizations were relocated to NEST. The Spix's at
NEST are owned by the Brazilian government and managed by Al Wabra
The existing captive population is descended from just 7 wild caught
founder birds, which are believed to have all come from just two
wild nests that existed post 1982: pairs originally owned by Birds
International in the Philippines, Dr. Hammerli in Switzerland, and
Wolfgang Keissling (Loro Parque), and a male from the São Paulo
In the years since 1987 when naturalists, conservationists and later
IBAMA/ICMBio started tracking the Spix, only two sets of birds unknown
in 1987 have ever been discovered: Dr. Hammerli's in 1991, and a
single male bird found in Colorado, U.S. in 2002. There is no evidence
that any others not known in 1987 still exist (though see a cryptic
reference to black market dealing in the birds in 1995.)
As of June 2013 there are approximately 96 Spix's macaws in captivity.
83 of these are participating in an international breeding program
managed by the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da
Biodiversidade (ICMBio), the Natural Heritage Branch of the Brazilian
Government. Most of these are managed at Al Wabra Wildlife
Preservation (AWWP), which purchased the population of Birds
International and most of the birds in Dr. Hammerli's Swiss
collection. Other Spixs are located at
Loro Parque Foundation,
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Association for the Conservation of
Threatened Parrots (ACTP) in Berlin, Germany, and NEST in Brazil. At
three of these five conservation organizations (AWWP, ACTP and NEST),
a captive breeding program is guiding
Spix's macaw a step closer to
re-establishment back to its natural habitat in Brazil. (The
Loro Parque Foundation cannot be bred due to health
reasons). The status and locations of 5 Spixs sold to private
owners from Dr. Hammerli's Swiss collection in 1999 are unknown but
presumed to be still alive; they are the likely source of the
approximately 13 Spixs in the hands of private owner(s) in
In July 2015, the number of Spix's macaws held in captivity
participating in the ICMBio recovery program reached 110(NEST:12,
ACTP:12, AWWP:86). The count does not include an unverifiable number
of birds in private hands.
Institutions / Locations
Bred in captivity
Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP), Doha, Qatar
Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP), Berlin,
Loro Parque Foundation (LPF), Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
NEST, Avaré, Brazil
(private owners), Switzerland
Note: table data based on "Al Wabra ICMBio data from June 2013" and
Watson, R. (Studbook Keeper) 2011. "Annual Report and Recommendations
for 2011: Spix’s
Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)".
Health and reproduction
The captive population suffers from very low heterozygosity –
the original wild caught founder birds were few, closely related in
the wild and intensively inbred in captivity – resulting in
infertility, and high rate of embryo deaths (at AWWP, only one in six
eggs laid is fertile; only two-thirds of those hatch).
For unknown reasons, originally suspected to be bloodline related,
captive specimens seemed to have delayed sexual maturity. The youngest
pairs to lay fertile eggs were 10 years of age. Other captive breeding
issues are that, possibly because of inbreeding, many more hens than
cocks are hatched, at least twice as many.
All or nearly all hatched chicks in the breeding program are hand
raised by experienced staff, to reduce the risk of losing a scarce
live chick (only about one out of ten viable eggs laid hatch). No
chick has been lost through weaning. Non-invasive DNA testing of
plucked feathers has been introduced to sex the chicks. The sex of
chicks is not determined until they have featheration (one to two
Parrots choose their own mates, so the best genetic pairings may not
be possible. Artificially created "pairs" may groom and associate with
each other as if they were a pair, but in fact are not mates, and it
may take several seasons to determine this. An additional complication
is that infected birds are not paired with uninfected birds, because
of the risk of spreading viral diseases.
Newest developments in captive breeding programs of this species
involved assisted reproduction techniques in the Spix's macaw:
In the 2009–2010 breeding season, a research collaboration between
Loro Parque Fundación of Tenerife, Canary Islands and the University
of Giessen in Germany used a new technique developed for semen
collection and tested in many other parrot species on the Spix's
macaws. However, artificial insemination was not used in this
Scientists from the
University of Giessen
University of Giessen of the working group of
Prof. Dr. Michael Lierz, Clinic for Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians and
Fish, developed a novel technique for semen collection and artificial
insemination in large parrots. The research team used artificial
insemination for the first time ever in the
Spix's macaw at Al Wabra
Wildlife Preservation in 2012.
In the 2013 breeding season veterinarians and scientists from Parrot
Reproduction Consulting, a German veterinary practice focused on
parrot reproduction medicine, and Al Wabra developed new specific
strategies for semen collection and artificial insemination of the
Spix's macaw. These resulted in the world's first egg fertilisation
and first chicks of the
Spix's macaw as a result of assisted
reproduction, performed et al-Wabra Wildlife Preservation. Two chicks
were produced and the first chick was called "Neumann" after Daniel
Neumann, the veterinarian who performed these inseminations.
Illustration of glaucous macaw (foreground) with
Spix's macaw in
One of the earliest records (and one of very few at all) of a Spix's
macaw in a public zoo was a dramatic display of "the four blues"
including Spix's, glaucous, hyacinth, and Lear's macaws in 1900 at the
The bird was exceedingly rare in aviculture, the few being held by
wealthy collectors rather than privately as pets. A trickle of Spix's
appeared in captivity starting in the late 1800s. The earliest known
specimens were three held by the
London Zoological Society
London Zoological Society between
1878 and 1902.
One of the few accounts of the Spix in captivity was given by Rev.
F.G. Dutton, president of the Avicultural Society U.K. in 1900: "I
have not yet seen a good-tempered Spix ... My Spix, which is
really more a Conure than a Macaw, will not look at sop of any sort,
except sponge cake given from one's fingers, only drinks plain water,
and lives mainly on sunflower seed. It has hemp, millet, and canary,
and peanuts, but I do not think it eats much of any of them. It barks
the branches of the tree in which it is loose, and may eat the bark.
It would very likely be all the better if it would eat bread and milk,
as it might then produce some flight feathers, which it never yet has
had. But I expect it would not eat any sop, even if I gave it nothing
The bird remained rare and highly coveted. The first captive breeding
occurred in the 1950s in Brazil, in the aviaries of the late Alvaro
Carvalhaes, an aviculturist from Santos. He hatched numerous chicks,
some reports say as many as 24, one of which ended up at the Naples
Zoo (Italy), where it remained alive until the late 1980s. Most of his
birds died of poisoning in the 1970s. Some of these birds were the
likely source of rumored Brazilian Spix owners in the 1960s and
Bates and Busenbark say that the bird was intelligent and
affectionate, talked some, and had no worse proclivity for screaming
than Amazons. They also noted that the Spix were spiteful to other
In October 2002, a Spix named Presley was discovered in Colorado, and
repatriated to Brazil. This Spix had not been among those known in
1987. Because all known specimens of the
Spix's macaw are now in a
conservation program run by the Brazilian government, there are now no
sources from which the bird may be obtained for the pet
trade. Presley died on 25 June 2014 outside São
Paulo, at the approximate age of 40.
What appears to be the last Spix discovered in the wild was found on
18 June 2016 in Curaçá, Brazil, however it is speculated that this
may have been a bird released from captivity due to fear of the
The Spix is one of the "four blues", the four species of all blue
macaws formerly seen in captivity together including the hyacinth
macaw, Lear's macaw, and glaucous macaw (extinct).
In the animated TV series Noah's Island, the "Born to be Wild" episode
focuses on Noah, the main character, bringing a breeding pair of
Spix's macaws to his island from the Amazon rainforest, in the hope
that they will breed. At first, the two macaws are both very
aggressive and fight with each other, but they eventually make up and
fall in love.
In the opener of the Gorgo episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000,
Crow finds that his head crown has become a nesting spot for two
Spix's macaw eggs. Later in the episode he reveals that the eggs have
been taken away by Egg Protective Services after he accidentally made
an omelet in front of them.
In the 2011 animated movie Rio, the main characters Blu (Jesse
Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) are the supposed last pair of
Spix's macaws in the world (although they are referred to as blue
macaws). The movie even references their extinct-in-the-wild status
and at one point ornithologist Túlio Monteiro mentions the species'
scientific name. In its 2014 sequel Rio 2, it is revealed that
they are not the last pair at all, but in actuality other Spix's
macaws are thriving secretly in the Amazon rainforest.
In a 2008 episode titled "Wildlife" of Law and Order SVU the bird was
included in an international animal smuggling ring. It was found in
the purse of a victim who had been mauled by a tiger. References were
made to the extreme rarity of the bird and the potential value of it
and other endangered species.
On 18 June 2016 one specimen was seen in
Curaçá in the Brazilian
state of Bahia. On 19 June, the bird was filmed in poor quality
although its call it was identified as a Spix's Macaw. However,
Birdlife noted it is possible the individual was a released captive
^ Sick's full remark was: "The Indigo
Macaw is the only true macaw in
that region. The Little Blue
Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), which is
another endemic from Northeastern Brazil, is not a real macaw, and is
not present in this region."
^ Juniper says "It was here [on the bank of the Rio Sao Francisco
near Joazeiro] that he [Spix] shot a magnificent long-tailed blue
parrot for their collection." But George Smith says: "Among the
several unique avian specimens that were brought to him[Spix] by his
anonymous collectors was a small blue macaw". Juniper sites his source
generally as; the Smith article cites no sources.
^ The holotype is now stored in Zoologische Staatssammlung München
^ a b
BirdLife International (2013). "Cyanopsitta spixii".
List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for
Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
^ Spix, Martius (1824–25). Avium Brasiliensium
Species Novae, Vol.1
^ a b "pix's Macaw, Star of "Rio," Spotted in the Wild for the First
Time in 15 Years". www.smithsonianmag.com. Retrieved 2016-07-08.
^ Tavares, E. S.; Baker, A. J.; Pereira, S. L.; Miyaki, C. Y. (2006).
"Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of neotropical
parrots (Psittaciformes: Psittacidae: Arini) inferred from
mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences". Systematic Biology. 55 (3):
454–70. doi:10.1080/10635150600697390. PMID 16861209.
^ a b Jobling, James A. (2012). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird
Names. London: Christopher Helm. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
^ Joseph, Leo; Toon, Alicia; Schirtzinger, Erin E.; Wright, Timothy
F.; Schodde, Richard (2012). "A revised nomenclature and
classification for family-group taxa of parrots (Psittaciformes)"
(PDF). Zootaxa. 3205: 26–40.
^ a b del Hoyo, J., ed. (1997). Handbook of the Birds of the World. 4.
Barcelona,Spain: Lynx Editions. pp. 280–339.
^ Ellis, Richard (2004). No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal
Species. New York: Harper Perennial. p. 270.
^ Bonaparte, Charles (1854) Revue et magasin de zoologie pure et 6:149
^ Juniper, pp. 19–23
^ Salvadori, Tommaso (1891). Catalogue of the Birds in the British
Museum. Volume XX: Catalog of the Parrots, or Psittaci in the
Collection of the British Museum. Illustrated by Keulemans, John
Gerrard. p. 150.
^ Dutton, F. G. (1900). "President, Avicultural Society U.K.". The
^ Sick, H. (1981). "About the Blue
Macaws Especially the Lear's
Macaw". In Pasquier, RF. Conservation of New World Parrots ICBP Parrot
Working Group Meeting (Technical Publication 1). St. Lucia:
Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 439–44.
^ Wright, T.F.; Schirtzinger, E. E.; Matsumoto, T.; Eberhard, J. R.;
Graves, G. R.; Sanchez, J. J.; Capelli, S.; Muller, H.; Scharpegge,
J.; Chambers, G. K.; Fleischer, R. C. (2008). "A Multilocus Molecular
Phylogeny of the Parrots (Psittaciformes): Support for a Gondwanan
Origin during the Cretaceous". Mol Biol Evol. 25 (10): 2141–2156.
doi:10.1093/molbev/msn160. PMC 2727385 .
^ Kirchman, Jeremy J.; Schirtzinger, Erin E.; Wright, Timothy F.
(2012). "Phylogenetic relationships of the extinct Carolina Parakeet
(Conuropsis carolinensis) inferred from DNA sequence Data". The Auk.
129 (2): 197–204. doi:10.1525/auk.2012.11259.
^ a b c d e f Forshaw, Joseph M. (2006). Parrots of the World; an
Identification Guide. Illustrated by Frank Knight. Princeton
University Press. ISBN 0-691-09251-6. plate 70.
^ a b c d e f g h i j "Spix
File 2010". Al Wabra Wildlife
^ a b "
Species factsheet: Cyanopsitta spixii". BirdLife International
(2008). Retrieved 24 July 2008.
^ a b c d e f g Juniper, T.; Yamashita (March 1991). "The habitat and
status of Spix's
Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii".
Bird Conservation Intl. 1
(1): 1–9. doi:10.1017/S0959270900000502.
^ "News from the
Loro Parque Fundación
Parrot collection" (2011)
^ "Spix's Macaws: Physical Description, Behavior and Calls /
^ a b Collar; et al. (1997). Threatened Birds of the Americas.
Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1-56098-267-5.
^ Sick, Helmut (1989). Ornitologia brasileira, uma introducao.
Universidada de Brasilia. ISBN 85-230-0087-9.
^ a b c Juniper, T. (2002). "The Spix
Macaw Recovery Programme".
Proceedings 5th International
^ Silva, Tony (1989). A Monograph of Endangered Parrots. Silvio
Mattachione. ISBN 0-9692640-4-6.
^ a b Roth, Paul (1990). "Spix's
Macaw – Cyanopsitta spixii. What do
we know today about this rare bird?". Caged
^ a b c d ICMBio. "Executive Summary of the National Action Plan for
Macaw Conservation" (PDF). Retrieved 2012. Check date
values in: access-date= (help)
^ Marcgrave, Georg (1648). Historia Naturalis Brasiliae. Willem Piso.
^ a b Spix, Martius (1824–25). Avium Brasiliensium
Species Novae. 1.
^ von Helmayr, C. E.; der Abhandl, K. B. (1906). "Revision der
Spix'schen Typen Brasilianische Vogel". II Kl. XXII Bd. III Abt.
Akademie der Weissenshaften: 563–726, Taf. 1, 2.
^ Juniper, p. 19
^ Smith, George (May 1991). "SPIX'S MACAW Ara (Cyanopsitta) spixii".
Parrot Society Magazine. XXV: 164–5.
^ von Spix, J. B.; von Martius, C. F. P. (1823–1831). "Book seventh,
Chapter II". Reise in Brasilien auf Befehl Sr. Majestät Maximilian
Joseph I. König von Baiern in den Jahren 1817–1820 gemacht und
beschrieben (in German). 2. München: Verlag M. Lindauer.
^ Arndt, T. (1986). Enzyklopädie der Papageien und Sittiche. Horst
^ Silva, T. (1989). A Monograph of Endangered Parrots. Silvio
^ Juniper; Yamashita (1990). "The Conservation of Spix's Macaw". Oryx.
24: 224–228. doi:10.1017/s0030605300034943.
^ Collar, N. (1992). Threatened Birds of the Americas. Smithsonian
^ a b Donald, Paul; Collar, Nigel; Marsden, Stuart; Pain, Debbie
(2010). Facing Extinction: the World's Rarest Birds and the Race to
Save Them. Poyser. pp. 200–208. ISBN 0-7136-7021-5.
^ Juniper, p. 31
^ Sick, H. & Teixeira, D.M. (1979). "Notas sobreaves brasileiras
raras ou ameacadas de extincao". Publiçacões avulsas Museu Nacional
(Rio De J.) (62): 1–39.
^ Silva, Tony (1994). "Breeding the Spix's
Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)
at Loro Parque, Tenerife". International Zoo Yearbook. 33: 176–180.
^ Roth, P. "Spix-Ara. Was wissen wir heute über diesen seltenen
Vogel". Papageien (3/90 and 4/90).
^ Schischakin, Natasha (June 1999). "The Spix's
Programmme A Non-extinction Story".
Loro Parque Foundation.
^ Juniper, p. 239
^ Bertram, Wende. "Climate Change, Adaptation and Desertification
Control" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-04-20.
^ Juniper, p. 31,81
^ Juniper, p. 161
^ Juniper, p. 164-65
^ Juniper, pp. 169–71
^ "World's rarest parrot: cause for optimism" (1996). Cyanopsitta
^ "IBAMA dissolves the Spix’s
Macaw Recovery Committee" (2002).
^ Szotek, Mark (10 September 2009). "
Sheikh goes from collector to
conservationist in effort to save the world's rarest parrot".
Macaw Project Update". Retrieved June 2013. Check date
values in: access-date= (help)
^ a b c d e f g "Al Wabra ICMBio Spix Presentation January 2012".
Retrieved January 2012. Check date values in: access-date=
^ Christy, Bryan (2008). The Lizard King. Twelve. p. 111.
^ Vastag, Brian (4 July 2011). "Qatari sheik takes endangered bird
species under his wing". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 November
^ Robinson, Emily Lott (2012). "Revisiting Rio Star Presley: Is there
hope for the Spix's Macaw?" (PDF). www.parrots.org.
Macaw Project Update".
^ Juniper, pp. 213–214
^ "EcoAméricas Page 10 July 2015" (PDF). Retrieved March 2016.
Check date values in: access-date= (help)
^ a b Watson, Ryan (July 2007). "Managing the World's Largest
Population of Spix's Macaws". 33rd Annual Convention of the American
Federation of Aviculture (AFA), Los Angeles.
^ "Blue for a Boy?".
Loro Parque video documentary. BBC.
^ "Developing a New Insemination Technique". Loro Parque.
^ Lierz, Michael; Reinschmidt, Matthias; Müller, Heiner; Wink,
Michael; Neumann, Daniel (2013). "A novel method for semen collection
and artificial insemination in large parrots (Psittaciformes)".
Scientific Reports. 3. doi:10.1038/srep02066. PMC 3691562 .
^ James, Bonnie (22 May 2013). "Qatar efforts give hope to rare parrot
species". Gulf Times.
^ Juniper, Tony. Spix's Macaw: The Race to Save the World's Rarest
Bird. Simon and Schuster. p. 55. ISBN 9780743475518.
^ Juniper, pp. 25–26
^ Dutton, F.G. (September 1900). "The Feeding of Parrots". Avicultural
Magazine. VI (71): 240–5.
^ Juniper, p. 30
^ Bates, Busenbark (1978). Parrots and Related Birds. TFH Publications
Inc. ISBN 0-87666-967-4.
^ Vedantam, Shankar (24 December 2002). "A Rare
Bird Flies Home For
Good" (PDF). Washington Post.
^ "Extremely rare blue parrot discovered in a
Colorado home 10 years
ago dies in Brazil". Daily Mail. 29 June 2014. Retrieved 30 June
^ Hurrell, Shaun (24 June 2016). "Spix's
Macaw reappears in
^ Juniper, pp. 55–80
^ "Born to be Wild". Noah's Ark. 1997.
^ "Gorgo". Mystery Science Theater 3000. 1998.
^ director Carlos Saldanha (2011). Rio (motion picture). Brazil: Blue
^ director Carlos Saldanha (2014).
Rio 2 (motion picture). Brazil:
Blue Sky Studios.
^ Law and Order SVU Episode "Wildlife". Original air date 18 November
^ Hurrell, Shaun (24 June 2016). "
BirdLife International Americas".
BirdLife International Americas. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
Juniper, Tony (2002). Spix's Macaw: The Race to Save the World's
Rarest Bird. NY, NY: Atria Books. ISBN 0-7434-7550-X.
del Hoyo, et al.(eds) (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World,
Psittacidae (Parrots), N.J. Collar, pp-280-479, Lynx
Edicions, Barcelona, Spain ISBN 84-87334-22-9
Donald, Pain, Marsden & Collar (2010) Facing Extinction: the
World's Rarest Birds and the Race to Save Them T. & A. D. Poyser
A note on the references. There are only about a dozen original
ornithological research papers devoted exclusively to the Spix written
in the last 40 years. Most are collected at www.bluemacaws.org. A
comprehensive natural and conservation history through late 2002 is
available in Juniper's Spix
Macaw book. More recent information is
available in periodic reports about the parrots at
Loro Parque and Al
Wabra. Most other material is derived.
Sick, Helmut (1993). Birds in Brazil: A Natural History. Princeton
University Press. ISBN 0-691-08569-2.
Silva, Tony (1993). A Monograph of
Macaws and Conures.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Macaw research — in-depth articles.
ARKive: Cyanopsitta spixii — photos, videos, information.
Animal diversity web: Cyanopsitta spixii
Spix's macaw factsheet
BBC Nature: Spix's macaw
Species (extinctions: † indicates a species confirmed to be extinct,
₴ indicates evidence only from sub-fossils)
Blue-and-yellow macaw (or blue-and-gold macaw)
Great green macaw
Great green macaw (or Buffon's macaw)
Red-and-green macaw (or green-winged macaw)
Chestnut-fronted macaw (or severe macaw)
Cuban macaw †
Saint Croix macaw
Saint Croix macaw † ₴
Lesser Antillean macaw
Lesser Antillean macaw † ₴
Blue-winged macaw (or Illiger's macaw)
Golden-collared macaw (or yellow-collared macaw)
Red-shouldered macaw (Hahn's macaw or noble macaw)
Hypothetical extinct macaws
Jamaican red macaw
Dominican green-and-yellow macaw
Neotropical parrots (tribe: Arini)
List of macaws